Friday, 23 January 2015

By Any Other Name

By Wendl Kornfeld

During the 1970s I wrote and produced hundreds of broadcast and print ads for a couple of ad agencies that specialized in entertainment accounts such as Broadway shows and movies.

I worked with dozens of top-name stars, directors and producers, whose behavior and reputation often required diplomacy and extra patience on my part. I recall a few who were challenging in the extreme.

For one voice-over commercial, our agency needed a Latin-inflected mature male voice and we were able to secure an actor named Carlos Montalban – in fact, the older brother of Ricardo Montalban, that Hollywood heartthrob of the dazzling smile and impeccable suits.

Carlos Montalban proved to be utterly charming and so pleasant to work with, I actually wished the recording session could last longer. But, he knew his lines, took direction well, delivered like the seasoned pro he was and it was over all too soon. The following December I was delighted to receive a lovely Christmas card and photo of his beloved dogs which I treasure to this day.

If the name Carlos Montalban was not readily recognizable to you, his face and former fictional persona might have been. Do you recall that character from the old Savarin coffee commercials? He wouldn’t settle for just any coffee bean - he demanded only the best for our morning cup.

And so it is quite ironic that this smiling, easy-going actor I am telling you about was actually much better known to the world as El Exigente - the Demanding One.


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Thursday, 22 January 2015

At Sea with Rock Hudson and a Drunk Stowaway

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

My wife and I receive regular brochures in the mail from organizations offering cruises around places such as the Greek Islands or the fjords of Norway.

Enticing, but a week or so in the top deck stateroom would cost as much as we paid for our aging car so we make excuses. “Sounds like fun but we’d probably get norovirus or fall off the deck at night,” we mumble.

Our cruising days occurred years ago during the 25 years we spent teaching overseas and usually, we boarded a ship to get from one place to another.

The amenities were cruder and the entertainment random but at least we didn’t have to dress up for dinner or decide which exercise class to attend.

In 1975, we boarded a small passenger ship on our way from Perth, Australia, to Singapore. The cruise was ill-fated from the start. Our vessel was a poor substitute for the original liner that had been diverted a few weeks prior to provide relief efforts in Darwin after a massive cyclone.

So we joined a few hundred Aussies and set sail with Greek officers and a Malaysian crew on a rusty ship that was probably registered in Panama.

The loose-talkers on board called the ship’s commander Captain Ouzo and they claimed the crew members regularly visited the engine room to smoke weed. Most of the passengers passed the time drinking Swan Lager and sliding coins into the five “pokie machines” that made up the ship’s gambling parlor.

The rear deck held the fitness facility, a swimming pool the size of a king-sized bed. It was more like a washing machine with its cycles dictated by the pitch and roll of the ship.

The final perk on board was an evening movie, a “Cinema Paradiso” at sea with a clacking projector beaming light through the salt-filled air and onto a swaying screen.

A murderous Rock Hudson killing off Pretty Maids in a Row was tolerable the first night but when we realized it was the feature on the second night also, only cold beer kept a mutiny at bay.

Thirty minutes into the repeat performance — two dead maids, three to go — the ship lost all power, and even though it was a great moment in film viewing history, it was frightening for those of us sober enough to realize we were adrift in high seas at night somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

The pitch darkness provided a splendid view of the stars and I imagine the ship’s navigator stumbled onto the deck and raised his sextant to the sky. The only other active spot on board was the bar where the drinking continued by Braille.

The outage lasted only a few hours but the waves grew stronger and the next day, we were riding the swell from a nearby typhoon. With my weak sea legs, I’d been queasy since we left Australia, so I joined others in a “chundering chorus.”

As we drew closer to Singapore, most forgot about the rough seas and some started worrying about the island nation’s famous draconian laws related to drug use, pornography possession and male hair styles. The place was notorious for refusing entry to hippies, slackers or those of us with hair creeping over our ears.

In the end, the official at the customs desk stamped my passport without even looking my way. His eyes were laser focused on the young woman ahead of me in line. Her sheer white blouse clearly showed what she had to declare and it certainly wasn’t a bra.

I was just glad to walk on stable ground, especially considering how the trip had begun.

On the night we left Western Australia, we had turned around an hour out to sea and steamed back to Fremantle because of a drunken stowaway. I’d heard it takes forever to turn a ship around so I was surprised they didn’t toss the drunk overboard or take him along figuring the Singapore officials would sentence him to 20 lashes and three more viewings of Pretty Maids.


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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Did the Swallows Return to Capistrano?

By Clifford Rothband

I just think that there is too little advice given to older men besides medical, death benefits or how they can save or use hard earned money type of advice. I am still looking for a men's horoscope in print.

In retirement, men seem to look for things to do. I volunteer when needed but sometimes it seems that I am being taken advantage of or taking some paid workers duties.

My 42-year-old daughter derides me as an instigator. My 47-year-old son is often astounded at the situations life has delivered. My wife understood when I got behind Marcel Marceau and mimicked him at Seaworld until he chased me away.

The following are some incidents that few might speak of but could have a very pronounced effect on our old man's lives. Not all inquiries are questionable or deserve a smarty, wise-ass or double entendre answer. Read on if you want to be amused.

For instance, we are in a casino and some young woman walks up to this old guy and says something. The next thing, he pulls out his wallet and three security men arrest him for soliciting.

We are in Panama City at the Seafood Festival. The wife and I walk our separate routes. This young thing in heels, tight jeans, an open midriff, a jeweled belly button and blue eyed contact lenses approaches me and says, "My man is in the can, I have six kids at home and will do anything for money.”

My answer: "Will you at no charge just go away!”

On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, some older folks are walking when a group of kids stops them asking to change a larger bill. As the old guy pulls his wallet out, one kid grabs it and runs off. The others stay saying that they didn't know that kid. But they are hampering any pursuit or police action.

At a resort area our 12-year-old granddaughter is invited to party by some older guys that she never met.

Her reply, "Hey Poppy, you want to teach these guys some manners?"

Then the wife is approached by a woman. "Hey sexy, are you alone, want to be friends?

My wife answers that she is with me and asksd, “Are you up for a threesome?” Now that blew her away.

At a I-95 rest stop in North Carolina, this guy approaches and gives a hardship story. He has no money for gas, got to get home for the kids, a job, he's hungry. If I give him my address, he will return the loan.

I am not so hard or distrusting, so I say, “Come with me and I'll buy you a sandwich first.”

“No, another time, my friend,” he answers. Yet in half an hour we see him do the scam at least three times.

Picture this. Vacationing one evening in Washingtin, D.C. with two grandkids, wife, daughter and son-in-law in tow. We are waiting in the rain under an overhung awning and this normal-looking man approaches. He hands flowers to the girls.

In a return gesture, I reach into my pocket for a few singles. "Hey man, that ain't enough. I need $35 for a room tonight. You got anything larger, I can make change!"

I say, "Listen up, family, Let's move on."

My favorite. The wife is taking a picture of me on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. The King Neptune bronze statue is behind me.

Everybody is in swim suits and a redheaded lady in a sheer black summer dress comes up. She asks, "Are you retired or alone? Do you want to see the sights, have a good time? If you got money I'll show you a good time."

Now the wife, a few steps away, hears it all and she is laughing. Her overweight balding old man being propositioned by a young tart. The wife of course offers no help; she stands back and just listens.

As I try walking away, I get a close-ear whisper again and I figure she might be an undercover cop or something. She really scares me. Finally the woman trots off with a humpf.

The wife comes up and asks me, "How did you get rid of her?"

I only asked her if the swallows returned to Capistrano?"


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Skin in My Face Is Growing Downwards

By Arlene Corwin of Arlene Corwin Poetry

Wrinkling earlobes.
Ditto neck.
Drooping jawline; skrinkling cheek;
Eyes: the lids.
The mouth the hideous-d of all:
A mix of
Wrinkling, drooping, lined, thinned, fallen.
But it functions and I’m glad.
It talks, it sings, it bends, it hears
(that is the ears)
Not as unpropitious as it sounds.

But growing downwards, definitely.
Or as the case may be indef...

Shall I interfere and try
To youngify?
Restyle, revamp, remodel, work, in short
A reconstruction?
How shall I adapt?
Reshape?
How shall I, in other ugly words escape?

Gather rosebuds while they're there
And you're not in a wheelchair -
It doesn’t last - this now becoming past.
Not even Chinese Mings or tanks or emerald rings
(although they may take somewhat longer)
Anything that’s formed – reformed is de-formed in the end.
I’m wise enough to save that effort.
Not to take that shot at, stab at, or a crack
At getting my young beauty back.
Do I suffer?
That’s a tougher!

I ignore the mirror
Or I study the way Rembrandt did,
Leaving not a wart ignored.
Warts and all, I make my call without a comment
And a row.
I’m doing it right now.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 19 January 2015

How Many Houses Should a Rich Man Own?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This poem arrived from Marc way back during 2012 presidential campaign. Somehow it got overlooked and then was out of date. Now, however, Mitt Romney seems to want to run for president again so I am pleased to finally publish this poem from Marc.]

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

How many houses should a rich man own?
Does that bother the homeless on the street?
Or, is that question better left alone?
Are the rich embarrassed if they should meet?
And should health care, available to all,
In the land of the brave, home of the free,
Remain an empty promise, still in thrall
To political expediency?
And what about the weary middle class?
Its dreams on hold, jobs lost, and homes foreclosed,
While rich men smile and drink champagne en masse.
Is modern life the way that we supposed?
Is life unfair? You’ve every right to ask.
To reason why’s the unforgiving task.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 16 January 2015

A Sea Cruise with Few Amenities but Plenty of Personality

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

In an era before cruising meant champagne, yoga and shopping ports-of-call, most travelers hopped on vessels to get from point to point. In the late 1970s, my wife and I were traveling the Indonesian islands and we were the last to board a large, crowded ferry at the port in Jakarta.

Since we had not booked one of the few small rooms for the two-day trip, we walked onto the huge single deck lined with small mats and skinny kids.

Indonesian families had staked out an orderly Woodstock crowd plan and we were left standing at the railing as the wooden cargo ships of Jakarta faded behind us in the haze.

Eventually we camped out on a small bench that was hooked to the wall outside the kitchen. Occasionally the cook would come out to smoke clove-filled cigarettes and aside from a few futile attempts at communication, we quietly shared the space until he went back to work.

He must have been the Iron Chef of the Malacca Straits as he chopped up boiled fish and produced caldrons of steamed rice.

Our two on-board meals came in the form of Dickens-like gruel lines. Servers set the pots filled with rice and fish bits at the front deck area and the passengers would file by, bowls in hand and all-purpose spoons at the ready.

We didn’t get the memo about meal procedures so we found plastic coffee can lids and joined in.

While standing in line, we met an Australian couple who had a small mat area staked out on the deck. The shaggy brown-haired young man mentioned that some Indonesian passengers camped next to them had asked why he and his wife didn’t use the wad of money he had in his shirt pocket to book a ship with furnished rooms.

They all had a good laugh when he unbuttoned his pocket and pulled out a bar of Ivory soap. Like us, they were on a tight budget, traveling “on the local economy.” But also like us, they were a lot wealthier than the families that were shoehorned on the deck — at least monetarily.

For entertainment we squinted at the site of the 1883 Krakatoa eruption and tried to imagine tidal waves that could kill 40,000 coastal dwellers in minutes. A few decades later, we would read about an earthquake under the sea nearby and a death toll more than five times that number.

By the time we rounded South Sumatra and turned north toward Padang, the sun was setting and we were planted on the bench. The cook, thin and stark in the twilight, appeared with a large steamed fish head on a tin plate.

The fish’s mouth seemed to form a soggy smile and the puffy gray face had a smug look, almost like it was saying, “Ha, I’m dead and this man is being kind to you by sharing the best part of me, but you’re about ready to puke.”

Of course we thanked the cook and used the bent fork to pick at the cheek pouch and jowl areas. A cold beer would have helped, but the only drink we had found on board was Coca Cola that came in those classic, eight-ounce bottles. It was warm.

In one respect, we were happy to have limited food and drink options. We wanted to shut down our digestive systems as much as possible because the toilets on board had become unusable after only hours at sea. Both the men and women facilities were at the bottom of a flight of stairs and even during our first visit, water had started seeping across the floors.

Later in the day, my wife reported that the ladies room had a foot of water sloshing back and forth in it and some mothers in the facility held toddlers that peed straight into the water.

The men’s room was no better off and if the smell was any indication, the crude flushing system was not working either. We practiced a form of mind-over-matter body control, a bit of Zen irregularity.

During the second day, we basked in sunshine and walked the narrow gangways to people watch — laughing kids, sleeping grandpas and a young man sporting a James Dean hair style and a tight black leather outfit.

At noon folks lined up in an orderly procession for rice and fish and within a few hours we chugged into the port at Padang. As we shuffled down the gang plank, we spoke with a few Indonesians and they informed us that the ship was arriving in Sumatra with the same number of live passengers it had left with.

During the night, an old man died and a baby was born.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Is it You, Dahle?

By Norm Jenson of Mostly Anecdotal

We have a dog, her name is Dahle, she’s a brown and white Shih Tzu.

Today my wife asked me if I would mind picking up the dog from the groomer. She dropped her off earlier in the day and when they call, I’ve agreed, I will pick her up.

It always makes me uncomfortable when I pick up the dog. It should be as simple as saying I’m here to pick up Dahle and then they bring her to me.

But no. Invariably they have the dog in a crate at the front of the store with other dogs and they say, “Do you see your dog?” and they point at the cages.

I look and there are two Shih Tzus - our dog is a Shih Tzu and one of the two looks like our dog but the grooming has changed its appearance. It looks different.

Our dog may still be in the back and this is just a dog that looks like ours. I worry about embarrassing myself. What will I say if I open the cage and the Shih Tzu’s not ours and bites me?

Or what if it acts friendly and I take it to the car just as the real owner shows up and confronts me. Accuses me of trying to steal the dog and calls the police. I agree it’s not likely but it’s something I worry about.

I open the cage; the dog just sits there. I whisper her name. She looks like Dahle, but she doesn’t wag her tail. I look for her collar and her name tag. I remember it’s in my pocket, removed before the grooming and now replaced by a bandana decorated with butterflies and ladybugs and other harbingers of spring, though spring is still months away.

I can tell she’s anxious to leave but any dog would be anxious to leave - it’s no guarantee she’s our dog.

I put a collar on her. She doesn’t seem to mind. I lift her and set her on the ground. I can’t tell for sure if she’s ours or just happy that someone is there to spring her.

We walk out to the car. She looks back over her shoulder. I open the door and she tilts her head to the side and looks at me askance. Is it because she doesn’t recognize the car or because she needs my help to get in?

vvvv

I pick her up and place her on the passenger seat. I get in and start driving home. She seems happy enough. I pet her. She may know me but she’s not giving it away.

I’m pretty sure I have the right dog, but not 100 percent positive.

What if I get her home and the groomer calls and asks what I’m trying to pull. What if my wife comes home and looks at this dog, maybe ours maybe not, and says what the hell.

The dog follows me upstairs and sits on a rug at my feet. I pick up a book and start reading. I’m having trouble concentrating, my wife will be home any minute now.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Doing Doggerels

By Henry Lowenstern

Whenever I'm swimming laps,
I turn on my rhyming apps
and rehearse
a verse,
made up of mental scraps.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Inspection

By Trudi Kappel

For three years, I had the good fortune to work at IBM’s renowned research laboratory. It was an opportunity to participate in leading edge research with scientists who were recognized leaders in their fields.

One of my assignments was the administration of a laboratory. I made sure that all services and equipment were working properly and arrange repairs when needed. Periodically there would be a safety audit. I had to remedy any problems the inspectors found.

The outgoing administrator gave me some advice as he turned over responsibility. On the desk near the door was a lamp with a two pronged plug. This was a safety violation. All electric equipment was required to have three pronged plugs. The lamp was not plugged in.

“Don’t ever discard that.” he cautioned. “It will save you much grief.”

I did not understand but I left the lamp next to the door. Unplugged.

Life in a research lab can be chaotic. Not all scientists are mad but most are impulsive. An idea comes into their head, they race to the lab to try it out. In the excitement of the moment, safety regulations are forgotten.

I tried to keep my lab in safety conformance but undoubtedly on most days there were lapses. However, we never had a fire and nobody ever landed in the hospital.

At my first safety review, the committee entered the lab. They noted the two pronged plug on the lamp, wrote it up and departed without venturing further into the lab.

AH HA. Now I understood. The inspectors had found and noted a deficiency. They had done their job! I promised to have it repaired but I never did. Different inspectors noted that plug at each of the semiannual inspections while I worked there and none of them never looked for or found any other issues.

When I moved on, I bequeathed that precious lamp to my successor with advice.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 12 January 2015

Things the Kids Have Said to Me

By Nancy Leitz

Daughter Carol at age 4: "Mommy, do you think you could buy me a mirror? I'm tired of making up in doorknobs."

Niece Emma age 5: "Emma, would you like me to take your picture?"

"Yes, Aunt Nancy, but I didn't think you would take my picture this year.

I asked “Why do you think I wouldn’t take your picture this year?

“Because I have the same face as last year."

Chris age 4 after he had been watching cowboy movies all afternoon when he was told that his Aunt Betty's mother had died: He jumped from his chair, put his hands on his hips and demanded to know, "Who shot her?"

Boss's daughter Judy aged 6 was sitting at a desk in our office area with her chin in her hand and a faraway look on her face. "Judy, What are you thinking about?"

"I'm trying to decide whether to invite my college friends to my wedding."

Steve aged 9 on a ride up the New Jersey Turnpike with a stop at the first over 55 community we had ever seen. We drove through and there was not one swing set, wagon, bicycle or any other sign of a child.

"Mom, if these people don't allow any kids in here, what do they do for aggravation?"

Jerry age 4, would hear me say that one of our neighbors got on my nerves by calling me all the time asking me to borrow things or take her somewhere. One day the telephone rang and he said, "Mom, if that's Mrs. Hanson, why don't you tell her you have something else on your nerve today?"

Niece Cassidy age 5 was playing with a basket of artificial fruit while her Mom was having a meeting of her club at a picnic table. Cassidy kept circling the table giving out one piece of fruit to each lady. Her Mother said,"What are you doing, Cassidy?”

"I'm just playing."

"What are you playing?"

"Meals On Wheels."

When Grandson Ian was about 10 years old, I mentioned to him that in a few years he would be driving the car and he would be able to drive to Pennsylvania to see me.

His reply was " Well, you know, Nanny, you are very old. By that time you might be dead."

To which I responded, "I'll make it easy on you, Ian. If I'm dead, don't come."

Niece Susan when she was about 5 years old: When her mother would bring her to visit her grandparents, Mom Mom and Pop Pop McGarvey, they had to change trains at Penn Station 30th St. in Philadelphia. The station was huge, noisy and bustling with people and Susan was really terrified of the place.

So, one night we heard her saying the Lord's Prayer and she was pleading. “And lead us not into Penn Station...”

The Encyclopedia Brittanica salesman spread his books all over our living room floor and said, ”I can answer any question this young boy will ask me.” He called in Chris who was about 5 and said, ”Do you have a question you want me to answer?

Chris said,” Yes, what kind of car does God drive?”


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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